On Monday, with House approval, the General Assembly approved legislation aimed to make the roads safer for not only motorists, but also bicyclists, public transportation users and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.
The goal is to plan streets that encourage people to use healthy, greener transportation modes.
The legislation, 2012-S 2131, 2012-H 7352, sponsored by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma and Rep. Peter Martin, requires the state to use “complete street” design features in all federal and state-funded road construction projects. last February.
“Cars shouldn’t be the only consideration when public roads are being built," said DiPalma. "The health and environmental benefits of walking, bicycling and other active modes of transportation are well known, and we should be building our roads in ways that are safe for those activities and encourage people to choose them.”
The legislation requires that whenever the state is builds or modifies a road, the work must facilitate safe travel by all users, particularly pedestrians and bicyclists of all ages and mobility capabilities.
Features of complete street design may include sidewalks, paved shoulders suitable for use by bicyclists, lane striping, bicycle lanes, “share the road” signage, “road diets” narrower lanes to discourage speeding and leave room for pedestrians and bicyclists, roundabouts, crosswalks, pedestrian control signalization, bus pull-outs, curb cuts, raised crosswalks and ramps and traffic-calming measures.
The legislation allows common-sense exceptions, such as on interstate highways, where pedestrians and bicyclists are prohibited, and on projects where the space is too limited or costs would be disproportionate to the use such features would likely get.
The bill also requires the Department of Transportation to issue a report within two years detailing what it has done to comply with the law, how it has changed its guidelines on such features as lane width, design speed and more, and what best practices the agency has employed. It would also be required to include information on exceptions made, and why they were made.
The sponsors say the bill will encourage active modes of transportation, is healthy for the environment and people, and helps build a sense of community, since pedestrian activity encourages people to speak to one another, know their neighbors and visit local businesses. Additionally, the sort of features common to complete streets designs are increasingly becoming the standard in the United States, and early adoption would save the state from expensive or difficult modifications in the future.
“Making an effort to plan comprehensively for all road users, not just drivers, is a way to get the most from our highway funding,” said Representative Martin.